Body image, self-esteem and cancer

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Learn about how your teenager's body image and self-esteem can be affected by cancer and treatment and the resources available to help them cope with any issues.

Key points

  • It may be difficult for your teenager to deal with changes to their physical appearance, either during or after cancer treatment.
  • Encourage your teenager to talk about how they feel about their body image, and take a look at programs or workshops that can help them boost their self-esteem.

Body image and self-esteem

For almost all teens, physical appearance is very important. For teens with cancer, changes to their body and physical appearance are extremely difficult to accept. This is outlined for your teen in the section on "Managing stress and emotions".

As an adult, it is easier to rationalize that the changes to your teen’s body are temporary and necessary, and to focus instead on their overall health. However, try to remember that standing out and looking different is really hard for a teenager.

Encourage your teenager to talk about how they feel about their body. Remind them that changes are temporary, but demonstrate that you respect their feelings and understand that it must be hard for them. Remind your teenager that what really counts is who they are on the inside, and that person hasn’t changed.

Some teens find it helpful to meet other teenagers dealing with the same issues. Talk to your child’s health-care team or look online for a program for teens undergoing cancer treatment. The Look Good Feel Better program offers workshops specifically for teenage girls in a number of cities. Find out if there is a workshop available near you.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019